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With new energy efficiency regulations now in force for rented homes, Jeremy Smith, head of criminal law at local solicitors Wiseman Lee, explains why the days of the amateur landlord are numbered.

The government is continuing to enforce regulation within the privately rented property sector. As of last month, there is now a requirement for any properties rented out in the private sector to have a minimum energy performance rating of E on an Energy Performance Certificate.

The regulations came into force for new lets and tenancies with effect from 1 April 2018 and for all existing tenancies from 1 April 2020. It will be unlawful to rent a property that breaches the requirement for a minimum E rating unless there is an applicable exemption. A civil penalty of up to £4,000 will be imposed for breaches. For most landlords, this will mean they will no longer be able to rent out a property with a rating of F or G.

There are now estimated to be as many as two million private landlords in the UK renting out 22% of all homes – a huge increase on the 9% of homes in the private rental sector 30 years ago. With the sector becoming increasingly strictly regulated, more and more landlords are falling foul of the regulations and substantial fines are becoming commonplace. It is essential that anyone deciding to become a landlord appreciates the extent to which they will be subject to scrutiny by the local authority, and to the full force of the criminal law for any breaches. The local magistrate's courts, and increasingly the crown courts, deal regularly with large numbers of landlords subject to prosecution for a wide range of offences.

The law makes no distinction between a professional and amateur landlord. Every landlord is, by definition, running a business and is expected to adhere to the strict professional standards required of such. Fines are therefore generally imposed at the higher level typical of commercial prosecutions.

What is becoming clear is that the days of the amateur landlord are numbered. None of the rules recently introduced are, in themselves, earth-shattering. For the most part, they involve things that landlords should be or ought to be doing already. However, there are now so many of these rules that, taken together, the regulatory burden on landlords and their agents has become significantly more onerous.

Complying with the new regulations will involve setting up strict procedures to be followed when renting out a property. Landlords and agents will need to make sure not only that things are done at the proper time but that they will be able to prove they were done.

As ever, if you are considering renting out a property, there is no substitute for professional advice.

Wiseman Lee is located at 9–13 Cambridge Park, Wanstead, E11 2PU. For more information, call 020 8215 1000


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